Criss Cross
Criss Cross

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Annotation: Teenagers in a small town in the 1960s experience new thoughts and feelings, question their identities, connect, and disconnect as they search for the meaning of life and love.
Catalog Number: #65085
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Teaching Materials Receive a FREE Teacher's Guide for this title with a purchase of 20 or more copies of this book. You do not need to add a copy of the Teacher's Guide to your list, it will be automatically included with your order after the minimum number of copies is ordered.
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition Date: 2008
Pages: 337 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-009274-2 Perma-Bound: 0-605-02109-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-009274-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-02109-9
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2004054023
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Perkins's wonderfully contemplative and relaxed yet captivating novel, illustrated with her own perfectly idiosyncratic spot art, is a collection of fleeting images and sensations--some pleasurable, some painful, some a mix of both--from her ensemble cast's lives. Set in a 1970s small town, the third-person narrative floats back and forth between the often humorous, gradually evolving perspectives of its characters.
Kirkus Reviews
Debbie, from All Alone in the Universe (1999), returns in a poignantly funny coming-of-age story. Set in the town of Seldem (conjuring up "hardly ever") in the leisurely era of double-knit bell-bottoms (fully illustrated), this limns crisscrossing moments in the lives of teen friends. It begins with Debbie's yearning for something to happen. What happens is a poetic melange of sweetly ordinary moments in a summer of block parties, fireflies, warm apple dumplings, romance and social awkwardness as the characters try to "find all their pieces" and watch life rearrange itself. Told by an omniscient narrator (who may be the author), this offers multiple perspectives and diverse formats including photographs, exquisite and funny drawings, haiku and a dialogue written entirely in questions. It comes full circle as the two introductory characters, Debbie and Hector, almost wake up to each other at a summer party: "Their paths crossed but they missed each other." Written with humor and modest bits of philosophy, the writing sparkles with inventive, often dazzling metaphors. A tenderly existential work that will reward more thoughtful readers in this age of the ubiquitous action saga. (Fiction. 12-16)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-The author of the popular All Alone in the Universe (HarperCollins, 1999) returns with another character study involving those moments that occur in everyone's life-moments when a decision is made that sends a person along one path instead of another. Debbie, who wishes that something would happen so she'll be a different person, and Hector, who feels he is "unfinished," narrate most of the novel. Both are 14 years old. Hector is a fabulous character with a wry humor and an appealing sense of self-awareness. A secondary story involving Debbie's locket that goes missing in the beginning of the tale and is passed around by a number of characters emphasizes the theme of the book. The descriptive, measured writing includes poems, prose, haiku, and question-and-answer formats. There is a great deal of humor in this gentle story about a group of childhood friends facing the crossroads of life and how they wish to live it. Young teens will certainly relate to the self-consciousnesses and uncertainty of all of the characters, each of whom is straining toward clarity and awareness. The book is profusely illustrated with Perkins's amusing drawings and some photographs.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* This lyrical sequel to All Alone in the Universe (1999), a Booklist Editor's Choice, begins with one of many black-and-white drawings and a caption that reads, People move back and forth in this area like molecules in steam. As the title and caption imply, this story reads like a series of intersecting vignettes--all focused on 14-year-old Debbie and her friends as they leave childhood behind. Perkins writes with subtle, wry humor about perceptive moments that will speak directly to readers: universe-expanding crushes, which fill the world with signs and wonder; scornful reappraisals of childhood things (Debbie's disdain for Nancy Drew is particularly funny); urgent concerns about outfits, snappy retorts, and self-image. Perkins adds many experimental passages to her straightforward narrative, and she finds poetry in the common exchanges between teens. One section of dialogue, written entirely in haiku, reads, Jeff White is handsome, / but his hair is so greasy. / If he would wash it--. A few cultural references set the book in the 1970s, but most readers will find their contemporaries in these characters. Best of all are the understated moments, often private and piercing in their authenticity, that capture intelligent, likable teens searching for signs of who they are, and who they'll become.
Voice of Youth Advocates
One Midwestern, mid-1970s summer, Debbie wishes for "something different to happen. Something good. To me . . . in a way that doesn't hurt anyone or cause any natural disasters . . . soon." And something does happen, as things often will in the lives of quiet, introspective teenaged girls. Quite a few things, actually-Debbie overcomes a hopeless crush on the worthless (if dishy) football player Dan Persik; learns to drive stick from her encyclopedia-memorizing, gearhead friend Lenny; saves the life of her feisty elderly neighbor, Mrs. Bruning; starts to fall in love with Mrs. Bruning's grandson, Peter; and develops a new theory about love in general. Revolving around Debbie are her friends Hector, who is learning to play guitar; Lenny, whose shyness and mechanical aptitude have let him drift away from academic classes; Patty, who recites spontaneous haiku; and Mrs. Bruning, whom Debbie meets by chance. Each character's story is connected to Debbie's by filaments reminiscent of a spider's web-seemingly insubstantial or invisible but surprisingly strong. This modest title boasts a wry sense of humor in its prose and illustrations, an earnest sense of wonder at the universe, exquisite phrasing, sly allusions to A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a pace as leisurely as summer itself. Destined for cult favorite status among fans of Francesca Lia Block and Lynda Barry but worthy of a far wider audience, this book is a dreamy read for dreamy teens, the kind who, like Debbie, add considerate postscripts to selfish wishes.-Sophie Brookover
Word Count: 48,221
Reading Level: 5.5
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.5 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 101361 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:13.0 / quiz:Q38358
Lexile: 820L
Guided Reading Level: W
Fountas & Pinnell: W
Criss Cross

Chapter One

The Catch

She wished something would happen.

She wished it while she was looking at a magazine.

The magazine was her sister Chrisanne's; so was the bed she was sitting on and the sweater Debbie had decided to borrow after coming into Chrisanne's room to use her lip gloss. Chrisanne wasn't there. She had gone off somewhere.

Thinking she should be more specific in case her wish came true, even though it wasn't an official wish, it was just a thought, Debbie thought, I wish something different would happen. Something good. To me.

As she thought it, she wound her finger in the necklace she was wearing, which was her own, then unwound it again. It was a short necklace, and she could only wrap her finger in it twice. At least while it was still around her neck.

The article she was looking at was about how the most important thing was to be yourself. Although the pictures that went with it recommended being someone else. Looking at them together made it seem like you could do both at the same time.

Debbie checked her wish for loopholes, because of all those stories about wishes that come true but cause disasters at the same time. Like King Midas turning his daughter and all of his food into gold. Even in her own life, Debbie remembered that once, when she was little, she had shouted that she wished everyone would just leave her alone. And then everyone did.

The trouble with being too careful about your wishes, though, was that you could end up with a wish so shapeless that it could come true and you wouldn't even know it, or it wouldn't matter.

She wrapped the necklace around her finger again, and this time it popped loose, flinging itself from her neck onto a bright, fuzzy photograph of a boy and a girl, laughing, having fun against a backdrop of sparkling water.

Debbie picked up her necklace and jiggled the catch. It stuck sometimes in a partly open position, and the connecting loop could slip out.

Something like that, she thought, looking at the photo. Wondering if it would require being a different person.

In a way that doesn't hurt anyone or cause any natural disasters, she added, out of habit.

Fastening the chain back around her neck, trying to tell by feel whether the catch had closed, she thought of another loophole. Hoping it wasn't too late to tack on one more condition, she thought the word soon.

The wish floated off, and she turned the page.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, Hector's sister, Rowanne, was upstairs in her bedroom, changing her clothes or something. Hector could hear her humming, and the sound of drawers opening and closing.

He was crossing the front hall on his way to the kitchen and, as he passed the mirror, he glanced in and gave himself a little smile. It was something he always did; he didn't know why. For encouragement, maybe.

This time he smiled hello at himself just as a slanted ray of sun shot through one of the diamond-shaped windows in the front door at the side of his face, producing a sort of side-lit, golden, disembodied-head effect in the mirror. It struck him as an improvement on the usual averageness of his face; it added some drama. Some intrigue. An aura of inter-estingness his sister's face had all the time, but his did not, which mystified him because when he compared their features one at a time, a lot of them seemed identical. Or almost identical. There were some small differences. Like their hair. Their hair was different.

They both had auburn hair, but while Rowanne's auburn hair plummeted in a serene, graceful waterfall to her waist, Hector's shot out from his head in wiry, dissenting clumps.

And while both of their faces were slim, freckled ovals with a hint of roundness, Hector's was rounder. Rowanne had slipped away from her roly-poly childhood like a sylph from a cocoon, but Hector's was still wrapped around him in a soft, wooly layer.

Their eyes were blue-gray, behind almost identical wire-rimmed glasses resting on very similar slender noses. But Rowanne's eyes-glasses-nose constellation somehow conveyed intelligence and warmth. Hector's conveyed friendly and goofy. Why? What was the difference? Maybe it was his eyes, he was thinking. Maybe they were too close together. Maybe they would move farther apart as he matured, like a flounder's. Although when he thought about it, he seemed to remember that both the flounder's eyes ended up on the same side of its face. He tried to remember what made that happen, if it was something the flounder did, and if maybe he could do the opposite. Perhaps it would help that he wasn't lying on the bottom of the ocean watching for food to float by.

He definitely felt unfinished, still in process. He felt that there was still time, that by the time three years had passed and he was seventeen, as Rowanne was now, he, too, might coalesce into something. Maybe not something as remarkable as Rowanne, but something. It was possible, he felt.

Hector took off his glasses to see if his eyes looked better without them. He looked blurrier, which seemed to heighten the cinematic, enigmatic quality lent by the falling sun's sideways glance. His clumpy hair dissolved softly into the shadows, and the effort he had to make to see gave an intense, piercing quality to his gaze. Maybe corrected vision wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Maybe in ancient times, when distinct edges were unknown to many people, he would have been considered handsome. Though he might have had a lot of headaches.

The sun dropped a degree and the golden disembodied moment passed. Hector put his glasses back on and was about to turn away when a sharp jab of weight on his shoulder made him jump. It was Rowanne's chin. She had sneaked up behind him, and her face appeared next to his in the mirror. So much like his, but more. There was just no explaining it.

Criss Cross. Copyright © by Lynne Perkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, Lynne R. Perkins
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

She wished something would happen.

Something good. To her. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn't too late, she thought the word soon.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, he felt as if the world was opening. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots. He felt himself changing, too, but into what?

So much can happen in a summer.

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